The GoGlobal Blog

Author: Teresa Maksimovich

Goeie dag! My name is Teresa Maksimovich, and I am a third year Anthropology major at Loyola. I have chosen to spend the  fall semester of 2016 at the beautiful Stellenbosch University in South Africa. Traveling to South Africa has been a dream of mine since I was very young, and I am very grateful for this opportunity and extremely excited about the entire experience.  In this blog, I hope to offer a glimpse into what my life in South Africa is like, sharing the highs and the lows of what will undoubtedly be an unforgettable few months. Baie dankie!
About last week

About last week

Fees Must Fall (FMF) is a movement in South Africa that has emerged due to a dissatisfaction with the annual tuition increases instated by various South African universities. FMF’s immediate demands include a halt in tuition increase; however, the movement also argues that tertiary education should (eventually, not immediately) be free of charge in South Africa.
The reason that I wanted to talk a bit about Fees Must Fall is because of an incident that happened last Friday at Stellenbosch. Since last Monday, there had been a peaceful protest taking place in the Stellenbosch University library. The sit-in participants had basically been ignored for the entire week, as they were not being particularly vocal or disruptive to the other students in the library. On Friday, however, the tone of the protest changed drastically. Throughout the whole of Friday, students who were not protesting were barred from entering the library by FMF. Later in the day, when private security arrived to close and lock the library for the day, the protesters refused to leave. FMF was told that they would be given five minutes to leave before more security would arrive to forcibly remove them. The security officers, however, did not allot the full five minutes for the students to leave the library, and within two minutes, the students were being beaten, strangled and pepper-sprayed by private security. One young woman had a seizure after being pepper-sprayed, but was not allowed to leave the building until she had a second seizure, minutes later.
For the past week, the library and many classroom buildings at SU have been completely closed off to the student body. The classrooms that are open are consistently being disrupted by protesters. Many of my classes have been cancelled this week due to the knowledge that the lecture would most likely be disrupted. Test days are particularly nerve-wracking, as FMF participants often run through classrooms and tear up partially completed tests. The FMF’s goal in this action is to say “hey, if your test gets torn up, you can come back another day and take it again. But if fees get raised again, we will not be able to come back. We won’t get another chance at this”. That is a really powerful message.
I’m not going to pretend like I fully understand what is going on here; I don’t. However, I am trying my best to understand. FMF holds open forums every day in one of the buildings they currently are occupying on campus. Last night, I attended a discussion forum that was hosted by an FMF representative as well as a representative from the finance department at Stellenbosch University. Both of the hosts tried their best to present information in an unbiased fashion, with which the audience could form their own, informed opinion. As an international student, I did not feel qualified to offer comments in that conversation, but I did, and do, feel compelled to listen to every opinion and discussion I can find.

As an international student in a foreign country, it is often difficult to position yourself in the culture you find yourself in. It has taken me almost three months to feel comfortable and justified in a discussion of South African politics and justice, and even now, I still have a lot of underlying discomfort. But I am learning that the best thing you can do in any and all situations abroad is listen. Listen to as many people as you can find, and listen to understand, not to respond.

Friends, Dogs and Wine

Friends, Dogs and Wine

Hey there! Thanks for stopping by to read my first post, which has ended up being extremely stereotypical and admittedly a little boring. In the future, I would like to be a bit more analytical in my perceptions of South African culture, touching on the subjects of race, gender and sexual orientation, but as I have not yet figured out how to unpack those subjects in a fully comprehensible, respectful and thoughtful way, these next few simple paragraphs will have to do.

As of today, I have been in Stellenbosch, South Africa, for exactly one month. This lovely little town is more charming than I ever could have imagined, and being surrounded by 135 wineries and an endless expanse of mountainous beauty is a lifestyle that I am easily getting used to.

The most difficult, albeit expected, aspect about studying here has been the distance that has, both literally and figuratively, formed between me and my friends and family. Although the university provides campus-wide wifi to all students, the service is not free, and due to the limited internet access, I have become exceedingly aware and thoughtful of which online activities are worth my time, and which aren’t. Obviously, contact with loved ones is important in any circumstance, but I am trying to turn this limitation into an opportunity for personal and independent growth.

In addition, because I haven’t been able to text or call my friends, I have been forced (maybe “pushed” is a better word) to make new friends and quickly form my own little pseudo-family here. And certainly, the absolute most positive thing I have gained from this experience thus far is a sense of family. I am so lucky to live with seven people who make it a joy for me to come home every day. Because we spend the majority of our time together, it feels like we have all known each other for nearly a lifetime. And beyond just my housemates, the entire international office here cultivated such a tight knit sense of community during the first week of orientation that I automatically feel welcome among any group of international students. When applying and preparing for study abroad, I was extremely nervous about meeting new people and being accepted into a new group, but this fear has quickly faded thanks to all the wonderful and unique souls I have met thus far.
My favorite thing to do in Stellenbosch is volunteer for the Animal Welfare Society as a dog walker. Even though the society’s facility is currently far over capacity, the workers and volunteers there continue to tirelessly take impeccable care of every animal in their custody. It is a pleasure to spend half a day walking a couple pups up through the hilly vineyards. Spending time with animals has always been a rewarding and enjoyable activity for me, and I am very happy to have so quickly found an outlet for that hobby. Another (slightly more selfish) way I have been spending my time is by touring many of the aforementioned 135 wineries in and surrounding Stellenbosch. This is a surprisingly affordable pastime, and without fail, an absolute treat. Not only do the wineries offer a vast selection of South African reds and whites, they also almost always offer a wide variety of delicious meals and small plates.

Until next time, my friends.